When Jesus walked on water, he both frightened and amazed his disciples. The story is recorded in Matthew 14:33-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:16-24. Here are some lessons it teaches us today.
When Jesus walked on water. The storms of life can shake your faith and fill you with fear.
After feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus sent his disciples off in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and he went off alone to pray. Later in the night, a storm arose and the disciples struggled in the boat against strong winds and waves. So Jesus walked out to them on the water.
Was this an impulsive, original idea by Jesus? Maybe not.
You alone stretched out the heavens and trampled on the waves of the sea. (ESV, Job 9:8)
Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? (ESV, Job 38:16)
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (ESV, Psalm 77:19)
These passages indicate Jesus had previous water walking experience, perhaps during creation, and this was just another casual sea stroll to demonstrate his divinity. Although when the disciples saw Jesus they thought he was a ghost and it frightened them even more. At least until Jesus spoke and they recognized his voice.
Isn’t this true for us? The storms we encounter in life shake our faith and cause fear? But notice, Jesus didn’t wait for the disciples to cry out for help. He saw their distress and went to their aid. It’s reassuring to know he takes the initiative on our behalf too.
When Jesus walked on water. Follow Jesus and you might get in over your head.
You have to love Peter. A guy who acts first and thinks later. He does at least recognize he can only walk on the water by Jesus’ power. And give him credit as the only disciple brave enough to get out of the boat. He does great at first while he focuses on Jesus. But then he begins to think about it. Second guess himself. Focus on his circumstances rather than Jesus. And begins to sink.
Although once again, Jesus grabs on and pulls him to the surface. And it wouldn’t be the last time Peter’s impulsive behavior led him into choppy waters. It’s a familiar story for us too. When difficult circumstances test our faith we tend to focus more on the circumstances than on Jesus. And may feel like we’re in over our heads.
But even when it feels like you are alone and abandoned, you’re not as David reminds us.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (ESV, Psalm 46:1)
In fact, God does HIs best work through us when we acknowledge our weakness and call on Him for strength. And when God demonstrates His power through our weakness, we are more likely to give Him the glory.
When Jesus walked on water. When you provide the faith, Jesus delivers the power.
Jesus chastised Peter for his little faith. But maybe with a smile? Because Peter demonstrated faith through his actions.
And this is exactly what Jesus’ half-brother talks about in James 2:14-26.
You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (ESV, James 2:18)
James isn’t saying to demonstrate good works to earn salvation. He’s telling Christ-followers now that you’re saved by grace through faith, you should demonstrate that faith by your actions.
Exactly what Peter is doing!
Of course, it wasn’t Peter’s first miracle rodeo with Jesus. He had just witnessed Jesus feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Watched him command a lame man to pick up his bed and walk. Lazarus to wake up from the dead and come out of the tomb. And many others.
Yes, faith is important and Jesus said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain. And so too, is the importance of prayer. But the lesson in this story is the importance of remaining focused on Jesus. Because even as people of faith, the storms of life make that difficult.
But when Peter’s faith failed in the middle of the storm, he called out to Jesus who pulled him from the swirling waters. And we can trust God’s faithfulness. He will do the same for us.
Three assurances from a sovereign God. And what is meant by sovereign? An almighty God who created the universe. Who rules over it and is actively working in it to carry out His purpose. Here are three assurances God’s sovereignty give us.
Three assurances from a sovereign God. God created and controls the universe
God is an infinite, eternal being who exists outside of the universe. Hebrews 1:1-3 says Jesus both created the world and upholds the universe by the word of his power. Some pretty weighty words, right?
The Greek word for “uphold” is phero which means to carry or bear. It indicates carrying something from place to place. In other words, God didn’t create the world, turn on auto pilot, and then sit back and watch it spin. And the universe doesn’t run on a hidden, built-in power supply. God actively and continually carries it forward.
Colossians 1:16-17 says, “in him all things hold together.” Acts 17:26-29 says, “In him we live and move and have our being.” And 2 Peter 3:7 says, “The heavens and earth are being kept until the day of judgment.”
The view that earth is doomed because of climate change and it’s our job to save it has no place in a Biblical worldview. Scripture assures us that a sovereign God secures the world until he brings this age to a close. And it affirms this truth: God always does what he says He will.
Until then, we are stewards of the earth and its resources. But we are not in charge. God is. So relax people of God.
Three assurances from a sovereign God. There is an eternal purpose and plan that God is moving forward
God has a plan for your life and this world. Sure. Things may look a bit chaotic and out of control at the moment. And maybe your life feels that way too. But scripture assures us that God is at work in ways we can’t see or understand.
Ephesians 1:11 says he, “works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
The Greek word for “works” is energeo and indicates that God brings all things about. Does that mean we’re puppets doing His bidding? Or He uses subliminal messaging to manipulate our behavior? No. Scripture consistently teaches we make independent choices with consequences. And we are responsible for our decisions. But God is a divine actor, not a passive spectator.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” And Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Even in the midst of evil and bad circumstances God will bring about good. Especially for his devoted followers. This is one of the reasons we’re encouraged to pray. Although we don’t understand how it works, scripture tells us prayer can change results.
Nothing that happens in this world takes God by surprise or derails Him from fulfilling His purpose. Because He is not subject to our decisions. We are subject to His. And His eternal plan will prevail. The only question is where we, by our choice, will land in it.
Three assurances from a sovereign God. This age and world will conclude when God decides. For something better.
Jesus told his followers he would return to earth in the future. And he gave them signs to watch for. Although there is debate among Christian theologians about many of the events, there is agreement on two of them. A final judgment for all mankind and the formation of a new heaven and earth.
It’s one of the many promises that give Christ-followers hope. One the apostle Paul tells Christians to always be ready to give a reason for. And another assurance the earth is secure in God’s hands. Because if Jesus plans to return to earth, then certainly, God will make sure it’s here for him.
But the best part? God plans to remake the earth into a new version that’s even better. So rather than live with fear, gloom, and doom, Christ-followers have something to confidently look forward to.
Psalm 36: When you’re against or for God. David describes the decision on whether you’re against or for God as a matter of the heart. And he explains its impact on a person. Here are some thoughts on what Psalm 36 teaches us today.
Psalm 36: When you’re against or for God. When you’re against God, pride is a destructive, blinding force in your life.
In V.1-4, David describes a heart that rejects God by focusing on three words. First is the Hebrew word for transgression in V.1 which is “pesha.” It is also translated trespass and rebellion and means a conscious, willful rebellion against something. David means those who willfully disobey God’s moral laws.
Secondly, the Hebrew word in V.1 for fear is “pachad” and means a sense of terror or dread regarding your personal safety. In other words, it’s normal for us to have a healthy fear of an all powerful God. But the transgressor David describes has no such fear. Instead, he flatters himself and arrogantly makes plans against God’s law.
Thirdly, the word Iniquity in V.2 is the Hebrew word “Avon.” It means “to bend, twist, and distort.” Although a different definition than transgression, it makes a similar point. David means to bend, twist, or distort the law of God’s Word to a degree worthy of punishment.
Finally, David points out the deceptive nature of pride that the transgressor is completely blind to in his life. And boastfully embraces a rebellious lifestyle. It is a heart that rejects God and his ways in order to please itself.
Psalm 36: When you’re against or for God. David presents a more complete picture of God.
In V.5-6, David presents a more complete picture of God by listing four of his attributes:
Steadfast love extends to the heaven
Faithfulness to the clouds
Righteousness like the mountains of God
Judgments like the great deep
We celebrate God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Acknowledge his righteousness. But balk big time when it comes to his judgments. Why? Because we understand what it means from our own judicial system. It is a reckoning. Consequences coming due. Wrongdoers get what’s coming to them. And punishment is dispensed.
And while we all inherently desire justice, when it comes to our own own willful transgressions against God’s moral law, we look for loopholes. Surely a loving God wouldn’t send anyone to a fiery hell for all eternity.
But a just God can’t simply look the other way. Because he is equally just as he is faithful, righteous, and love. And that justice must be satisfied. So what’s the solution?
And the answer is, God sent Jesus Christ to die in our place. Jesus was God’s gift love that satisfied the requirement of justice. But you must claim the gift by seeking forgiveness from and following Jesus. Which leads right back to the choice of rebellion or submission.
Psalm 36: When you’re against or for God. There is life, light, and refuge for those who follow him.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (ESV Psalm 36:9)
In V.7-9, David celebrates God’s love. But even more, he delights in God as a fountain of life, source of light, and place of refuge. David understood this more than anyone since he was guilty of both adultery and murder.
But he confessed his guilt. Repented of his transgressions. Sought and experienced God’s forgiveness. And now celebrated the freedom of forgiveness. No wonder he delighted in God!
Followers of Jesus today can experience this same delight and access to light, life, and refuge. Although complete protection is not guaranteed on earth. Jesus taught his followers they would face persecution and death for his sake. But an eternal refuge awaited.
When you’re against or for God. God thrusts you down or lifts you up
David ends with praise in V.10-12 and asks God to guard his heart from pride and from following a path of wickedness. He recognizes that pleasing God involves pursuing righteousness. But it’s a path full of sinful sinkholes that drag you down. Especially pride. So he seeks God’s guidance for the journey.
And this is the way for followers of Jesus today. To pursue God’s righteousness wholeheartedly, but with humility. For temptation and sin surround us. So we must walk by faith, the power of God’s Spirit, and in a community of other believers.
While the final fate of transgressors is determined. Thrust down and unable to rise. Tripped up by spiritual blindness to their own rebellious hearts.
God’s path to greatness is described by Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And he uses children as an example.
Of course, modern society has its ideas about greatness too and assigns it a special acronym: G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all time)
It means ranking the highest score. Attaining the pinnacle of pursuit. Excelling above everyone else. But Jesus turned the idea upside down and compared it to children. Here are three things I think he means about God’s path to greatness.
God’s path to greatness is unassuming and unpretentious
Jesus overheard his disciples arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. And their conversation was similar to modern ideas about greatness. Those at the top of the spiritual ladder. Who will be In charge in heaven. The best of the best. In a religious sense, that is.
But what drives this? Well, it probably starts as teenagers when we begin to wrestle with with self-image and comparison. How do I look? Do people like me? Am I popular? And this impacts our behavior and how much of our true selves we reveal.
Children, however, are unassuming and unpretentious. They accept what you tell them on face value and don’t hide behind superficial masks or seek recognition. What you see is what you get because they are unassuming and unpretentious. It’s a good example for all of us to follow.
Jesus is not saying to be foolishly naive. But to be honest and straightforward in all our relationships. To avoid comparing and competing and strive for authenticity.
God’s path to greatness gives others the benefit of the doubt
Children speak their minds without filters and express their thoughts and emotions openly. And since they speak honestly, they assume you do too and believe what you tell them. They also assume people have good intentions and look for the best in others.
Looking for the best in others is a trait you also see in Jesus. He regularly confronted people in their worst moments and yet he healed them, encouraged them with hope, and challenged them to behave better.
Jesus, like children, always gave people the benefit of the doubt. He saw their sin, but didn’t let it affect how he related to them. He saw clearly into their hearts, but chose to act towards them rather than react to them.
It is this aspiration that should drive those seeking greatness in God’s Kingdom.
Jesus taught that greatness means serving others
It was during his Last Supper with the disciples that Jesus presented one of the most counterintuitive teachings in scripture. It’s not natural even for children.
Why? Because despite all their innocence, they enter this world with a sin nature. Just like the rest of us. And one of the first words children learn when playing with other children is “mine.”
But Jesus clearly taught its importance for those who seek greatness according to God’s standard. It is putting the needs of others first and serving them. It is hard to do because it goes against our sinful, selfish nature. And often requires the very presence and power of God in our lives.
And still, we will regularly fail. But in Jesus’ willing, sacrificial death for our salvation, we have a perfect example to follow.
When God’s people pray He does crazy, amazing things, This was impressed on me when I attended Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Here’s my story.
When God’s people pray He does crazy, amazing things. Especially when we pray in agreement.
I was a first semester seminary student in a Survey of the New Testament class. The professor was about to start class with a prayer and asked if anyone had a prayer request. A woman raised her hand and requested prayer for a friend. Her friend was married to a man who graduated last year and they had moved to California to plant a church.
The woman said he turned down the opportunity to pastor an established church in Texas to follow this calling and didn’t even have support from the Home Mission Board or other parachurch organizations. His plan was simply to canvass neighborhoods, knock on doors, and build a church from the ground up.
So the woman asked us as followers of Christ and future ministry workers to pray. She didn’t say it, but it was written all over her face. The guy was crazy.
When God’s people pray He does crazy, amazing things. Especially when we follow His leading
I related to the guy and was living it myself. A midwestern boy from Cincinnati, Ohio who had traveled to Fort Worth, Texas to attend seminary. When I felt God calling me to ministry I met with my Southern Baptist church pastor who advised me that seminary was the appropriate step for me to take. Southern Seminary was just down the road in Louisville, Kentucky, but I sensed God leading me to Southwestern.
So here I was staying with the friend of a friend. An outsider in this foreign land of Texas where common wardrobe included cowboy boots and hats. And a new language that called long distance a “fur piece” and a crowd of people “Y’all.”
I think my family and friends thought I was a bit crazy too.
But I’ve learned since then that trusting God and exercising faith often appear that way. Just consider Joshua and the Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho for seven days and Gideon taking on a Midianite army of thousands with 300 men carrying torches and blowing trumpets.
What crazy ways to wage war!
Joshua and Gideon both probably felt a little foolish following God’s direction, but they obeyed anyway. And God amazingly delivered on His promise. If this man was truly following God’s will in this church plant, then I believed God would provide. So I joined with everyone else in the class and prayed for him.
When Christians pray God unleashes His power
It was several years later after I graduated from seminary and began working in church ministry that I heard about a growing church in California that was gaining attention in the Southern Baptist Convention. And the name of the pastor was the guy we prayed for in that seminary class.
The church he planted was thriving and growing like…well, crazy.
I was still in Texas and serving at a church too. Nothing sensational like his ministry, But he had followed God’s leading and so had I and that was the important thing. We both went beyond our comfort zone and responded to God in obedience.
I celebrated what God was doing in his ministry. And I smiled to myself as I remembered the distress in the woman’s voice in that seminary class sharing her prayer request.
I’m sure our class prayer was only one of thousands that was lifted up to God on his behalf.
And I remember how the professor smiled at the woman with love and wisdom. That said he also knew we served an Almighty God.
“What’s your friend’s name?” he asked.
“Her name is Kay,” the woman replied. “And her husband’s name is Rick Warren.”
In case you don’t know, Rick planted Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California and later authored the best seller The Purpose Driven Life. He pastored Saddleback until he retired in 2022. Today it averages over 20,000 people in weekly attendance.
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